Art and Soul Innovations (ASI) encourages artistic expression, personal development, and leadership in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and allied youth by supporting the youths’ original works and by helping the youth to educate their peers and the community through the presentation of those works. ASI helps establish projects for youth who learn to express their creativity and create excellent theater. The troupes’ community, support and acceptance alleviate marginalization.
Lambda Legal and Case Western Reserve University say high school is hostile to LGBTQ youth, who hear anti-gay slurs 25 times a day. They are seven times more likely to be threatened with a weapon at school, and four times more likely to skip school for safety. 28% drop out- this is three times the national average. 26% are forced to leave home during high school. They are 4-5 times more likely to experience severe depression, and 2-3 times more likely to attempt suicide, comprising up to 30% of all suicides. Many have no place to feel safe or accepted.
Art and Soul Innovations exists for several reasons. At the forefront, Art and Soul Innovations seeks to expand its Proud Theater project by creating similar arts-based youth-driven organizations in communities around the state of Wisconsin.
Proud Theater performances are grassroots activism, educating the community about LGBTQ issues with an emphasis on quality theater. Performance pieces include one act plays, vignettes, poetry, dance and songs. The organizational chapters are safe, inclusive, and create positive experiences for the youth. Because the youth choose each year’s topics, the shows are fresh and relevant. Audiences are people who impact youth’ lives, including religious communities, health professionals, students, educators and the LGBTQ community. Performances take place during the school year, with a final show for the community.
Currently, there are six Proud Theater chapters in Wisconsin:
- Proud Theater-Madison started in December of 1999 is currently serving 30+ youth
- Proud Theater-Milwaukee started in April of 2013 and serves 7 youth
- Proud Theater-Sun Prairie started in October of 2015
- Proud Theater–Wausau started in October of 2011 and is serving 15+ youth
- Proud Theater Beyond-Milwaukee started in 2014
- Proud Theater Beyond-Madison started in 2016
Our concept is to document our methods, create a business structure for funding and operations that will sustain these organizations, and to train volunteers in the new locations to use the Proud Theater methods for working with the youth to help them create their own high-quality, original materials based on issues that are important to the youth.
Few organizations give youth the opportunity to be heard on issues that affect their lives. In Proud Theater, volunteer mentors work with youths to teach them to write and stage original material. Proud Theater provides community, security and mentorship essential to the youths’ emotional stability. Our strong record of inclusiveness includes success with youth of color. Proud Theater youth take on responsibility within the troupe, helping them to grow and acquire leadership experience.